Australia to subsidise Herceptin for early-stage breast cancer

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Australian federal government has announced it will subsidise the breast-cancer drug Herceptin under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for women with HER2 positive cancer. Those with advanced breast cancer will continue to be eligible for special assistance from Medicare Australia independently from the PBS.

According to the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, around 2,000 of the 14,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually are of the HER2 positive type. Herceptin has shown to prevent the recurrence of cancer in 30% of these patients.

In order to constrain costs, the government has accepted a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PABC) to provide Herceptin under the PBS only to patients who have the HER2 positive type of cancer, who have undergone surgery and who are undergoing chemotherapy. In addition, those who are predisposed to heart damage (which can be a side effect of the drug) will not be provided with the subsidised medication.

The government will provide subsidised Herceptin for 52 weeks (as found to be most effective in clinical trials) at a cost of around AUD$50,000 per patient.

Herceptin will become available on the PBS from 1 October.



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